Capitol Hill resident Amanda Friedman had little clue about what “white privilege” meant until recently. Although she grew up in California’s Orange County and was aware of racism, the latest “aha” moment came when she compared what happened when she was pulled over by a police officer a few months ago to what happened to one of her African-American friends in the same situation just a few days ago.
Friedman got off without even needing to show her driver’s license. In contrast, her friend was pulled over in Bellevue for “following a car too closely,” and the cop carried out a complete inspection of his documents.
“In the past, I wouldn’t have noticed these things,” Friedman said. “I asked my friend some questions about what happened and he was terrified, because you never know how the rest of your night is going to end. Simple interactions like that just make me want to cry. It’s not fair.”
Friedman says that, especially after Election Day, she felt guilty because of the privilege she has due to her skin color. Then she decided to learn more about racism, talk with others about racial justice and take concrete steps to dismantle white privilege—like attending the Women’s March and the NoDAPL protest outside Wells Fargo in January.
“I’m still actively trying to educate myself on ‘white privilege’ and terms like ‘white supremacy,’” she said. “In no way I’m an expert. I’m coming from a position of constantly wanting to learn.”
Peggy McIntosh, senior research scientist and former associate director of the Wellesley Centers for Women, wrote “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women Studies” in 1998. Almost 20 years later, the text is still in force.
In this paper, McIntosh offers 46 examples about how being white gives people of this skin color rights, advantages and immunity that people of other skin colors lack of or have in minimal levels.
Friedman says the racism coming from President Donald Trump’s administration has been a catalyzer for white people to take action in Capitol Hill. After a meeting with the Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites at Columbia City’s Southside Commons on Nov. 11, she decided to become the coordinator for the Central District and Capitol Hill chapter.
The chapter holds its meetings every first Saturday of the month at Liberty Bar on 15th Avenue, which Friedman and her husband, Andrew, opened more than a decade ago. The goal is to connect with neighbors, educate and activate white people in support of social justice, and have an impact in the community.
Another way to getting educated about the meaning and impact of “white privilege” in our society is through books, of course.
Iga Kozlowska, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Northwestern University, first became aware of “white privilege” at Tufts University, where she got her B.A. in sociology and community health in 2008.
Among all the books that she has read for her research and personal interest in this topic, Kozlowska still remembers the impact that reading Black Panthers leader Elaine Brown’s memoir, “A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story,” had on her education and racial awareness.
But just like Friedman, the Ph.D. candidate says after all these years doing research about the topic, she’s still learning about what “white privilege” implies, regarding how society shapes people’s ideas about race and the social impact of systematic racial inequalities.
Kozlowska is also a member of Seattle Indivisible, a group of volunteers that focuses on keeping Trump and members of Congress accountable for the decisions they make in office.
“We, as their constituents, want to see our values of freedom, equality and democracy represented at every turn with utmost vigor,” the Seattle Indivisible member wrote. “The political context has changed with Trump in the White House; we now have a president that is a direct threat to those very values. Seattle Indivisible feels that the biggest change every one of us as American citizens can make is through pressuring our representatives to do more to resist Trump and the Republican agenda.”
Seattle Indivisible organizes the Resist Trump Tuesday rallies every week in front of the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building.
On Tuesday, the group — consisting mostly of white people nowadays — presented some demands to Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, including the rejection of Trump’s remaining cabinet nominees, the protection of Obamacare and a filibuster of Supreme Court justice nominee Neil Gorsuch.
“As a group, we believe that being inclusive so that people of color have a role and voice in our organization is central to the success of our mission,” Kozlowska wrote. “Our mission is to resist Trump's agenda, which we think is discriminatory, hateful and unconstitutional. And to do that well, we, as a white-majority group so far, need to include and collaborate with the very communities that stand to be most affected by this administration.”